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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 7:47 am | Fair 42º


Reichard Steps Down as The Habit’s CEO, Succeeded by Restaurant Industry Veteran

Locals favorite Habit Burger Grill has announced the hiring of Russ Bendel as president and chief executive officer. The restaurant industry veteran previously served as president and chief operating officer of The Cheesecake Factory and is the former CEO of Mimi’s Café, a 133-store, Tustin-based casual dining chain.

Habit Burger Grill founder Brent Reichard will step down as CEO but will remain active in the company’s growth as its chairman. Current president Dave Nordahl also will stay actively involved in the future plans of the business and will remain a Habit board member.

In August, KarpReilly LLC, a Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm, invested a significant amount of equity capital in the Habit to support a more aggressive growth plan. KarpReilly acquired a majority ownership interest in the Habit while Reichard, Nordahl and other members of management retained the balance. The Habit Burger Grill currently operates 20 stores and is planning to open 100-120 stores over the next five to seven years in California, Arizona and Nevada. The company focus has always been on high-quality food and its customer satisfaction.

“We are very excited to have Russ Bendel as our new CEO,” Nordahl said. “We know that his leadership style, character and experience will help us achieve our goals for The Habit.”

Reichard said Bendel is a “great fit.”

“He has the experience to help us achieve our growth plan, while I focus on The Habit brand development, and the qualities that have made us great,” he said.

Bendel brings years of experience with premium, growth restaurant brands to The Habit. In addition to his roles at Cheesecake Factory and Mimi’s Cafe, he was involved in the early growth of other notable concepts including Outback Steakhouse, Roy’s and El Torito.

“The Habit is a truly unique brand,” Bendel said. “It is well positioned in the premium, quick casual niche and its commitment to quality is exceptional. I am thrilled to be a part of the growth of this world-class brand.”

The Habit has been in business for more than 35 years. Reichard got his first job at the original Habit in Old Town Goleta in 1976 when he was 16. Four years later, he and his brother, Bruce, bought the burger stand. The Reichards wholly own the three Santa Barbara stores, at 5735 Hollister Ave., 216 S. Milpas St. and 628 State St.

Kat Calbes of BLAZE represents The Habit Burger Grill.

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